In a recent development, Michael D. Bopp, the lawyer representing Republican billionaire donor Harlan Crow, has agreed to discuss Crow’s connection with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Your Content has learned.
NBC News obtained a letter where Bopp informed Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) of his willingness to engage in a dialogue with the committee staff. While Bopp expressed concerns about the committee’s authority to investigate the matter, he acknowledged the committee’s important role in shaping legislation related to the federal courts system.
This letter follows Bopp’s previous refusal to provide information about Thomas’ association with the billionaire businessman to Senate Judiciary Democrats last month. In response to a letter from Durbin in May, Bopp argued that the committee lacks the jurisdiction to investigate Crow’s personal friendship with Justice Thomas and asserted that Congress does not possess the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court.
Durbin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) promptly challenged Bopp’s assertions in a subsequent letter on May 26, asserting that his response was insufficient in addressing their request.
They emphasized that Bopp’s interpretation of Congress’s oversight authority, legislative power concerning government ethics, and separation of powers was flawed.
Durbin and Whitehouse also highlighted the distinction between personal hospitality and the use of corporate-owned property, a key issue the committee seeks to address through legislation.
Bopp’s refusal to comply with the committee mirrors his stance before the Senate Finance Committee, where he argued that the panel’s request for a list of gifts bestowed by Crow upon Thomas lacked a legislative purpose.
Justice Thomas has faced scrutiny over allegations reported by ProPublica, including failure to disclose trips and gifts funded by Crow, the sale of properties by Thomas and his relatives to Crow, and tuition payments made by Crow for one of the justice’s relatives.
Thomas contended that the trips and gifts were considered “personal hospitality from close personal friends” and that he was under the impression that they did not need to be disclosed.
As part of their investigation, Durbin and other Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee asked Crow to provide a detailed list of gifts valued above $415 given to Thomas, other justices, or their family members.
They also sought information on real estate transactions, transportation, lodging, and access to private clubs that Crow might have provided.
A Senate Judiciary Committee aide stated that Bopp’s latest letter failed to provide a meaningful response to the committee’s request. Durbin and Whitehouse plan to release a statement in response, dismissing the letter as not being a genuine offer for dialogue.
According to the aide, the committee staff had been in contact with Crow’s lawyer for several weeks, and the letter, spanning six pages, erroneously argued that Congress lacks the authority to legislate or conduct oversight in this area.
The aide further stated that the letter merely offered to maintain communication, lacking a substantive response to the committee’s legitimate information requests and failing to present a unique opportunity for a meeting with staff, according to NBC News.